So I’d like to start this post off by saying that this is not sponsored in any way. I received both boxes of my own volition, and this review is based on my own desire to find a quicker, easier way to make a home cooked meal.
This travel assignment has been rough in a few ways. Keaton and I are both commuting 45+ minutes, and with my schedule rotating between days and nights, it has been hard to get into any sort of routine. Meals were becoming very stressful to plan and prepare, and I started looking into meal prep kits and services to see if they would make things easier. Hands down the two biggest names in the industry right now are Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, so I decided to start with them.
Both services delivered on a Friday based on my location, so we have been eating those meals over the last week to compare recipes, ease of preparation, and overall satisfaction. Here’s how our experience went.
Both companies package their food into a medium-sized cardboard box that promises your food will stay fresh until you get to it that evening if you’re gone during delivery.
When I opened my Hello Fresh box I found 3 neat bags each labeled for the recipe they went along with. Underneath was a layer of cardboard, and then all the fresh meats packed on ice.
The Blue Apron box was a little less organized. Rather than packaging their ingredients all together, the produce and grains are in one compartment, the meat is on the bottom, and there are a few small packs labeled “knick knacks” for each recipe.
One thing to note: The entire Hello Fresh packaging, including the ice packs (once melted and drained) can be recycled. A lot of the Blue Apron packaging can be recycled, but not the entire thing.
Both companies had beautiful recipe cards with pictures and pretty in-depth instructions.
Both brands also included cute little pre-portioned bottles and packets of different sauces, oils, and spices you would need to prepare each recipe.
Ease to Prepare
In each box I chose recipes that ranged from easier looking pasta or meatball type recipes to more traditional meat entrees. I know cooking a steak or pork chop correctly can be difficult for brand new cooks, so I thought I’d see how the instructions provided helped someone who tries these boxes as a way to learn to be a better cook.
Hello Fresh had very simple, straightforward instructions. There was a picture for each step, and you could tell the aim was for a one-pot dish approach. This created less clean up and also limited multi-tasking which I believe is one of the hardest parts of learning to cook.
Keaton’s first solo attempt was with a pork chop meal from Blue Apron. It was…rough. First, I don’t think they gave specific instructions on how to make sure the pork was cooked through. Second, they tried to use more “fancy” words, which for someone who never cooks, made it more confusing. For example, instead of rice, the meal came with Farro (a type of grain). After searing the pork, the recipe described the leftover browned bits in the pan as “fond”. Well, poor Keaton didn’t really know what farro was, and definitely didn’t know what fond was. Instead of simply stating to put the kale into the pan used to sear the pork, the recipe said “mix the raw kale into the fond”. I walked in just as Keaton was dumping raw kale into cooked rice. I knew there was no way the kale would cook like that, and luckily rescued dinner. I also discovered the under-cooked pork and fixed that as well, but overall I just don’t think the Blue Apron meal was easy enough for a beginner chef to pull off easily and stress-free.
He did try a second Blue Apron meal which was a meatball dish, and that went much more smoothly. So pasta, rice, or ground meat dishes might be better for beginner chefs.
Blue Apron definitely won out for flavor. We tried an Asian meatball dish, a pork chop dish, and a chicken thigh with fall hash dish. The higher complexity of their recipes shined through in the fact that their recipes had a little more depth of flavor, and were more sophisticated.
Hello Fresh did not slack in taste. Everything we had was delicious, and there was a plethora of flavor styles to choose from. We tried an Asian-inspired dish, a pasta recipe, and a Southwest style steak meal. The recipes were more basic, and the dishes were yummy but less developed in the flavor department.
This was probably the biggest downfall for the whole experience. Both companies provided about 4 ounces of meat per serving. This meant one steak per person, one medium pork chop per person, or about 4-5 meatballs per person.
While the pasta and rice dishes definitely left us feeling more full thanks to the extra starch, I think we both could have used more protein. Keaton is 6 foot 3 inches, about 190 pounds, and a 4 ounce serving just isn’t big enough for an adult male most of the time. I think offering some sort of option for a larger protein serving would be beneficial for subscribers who are more active or have higher caloric needs.
Is it Healthy?
Both companies list full disclosure of the caloric content on each meal online before you order. While helpful, it was a little shocking how high some of the calories were on a lot of the meals. Most meals ranged from 550-800 calories per serving, and some had as much as 30 grams of fat. I found Blue Apron to have a little higher overall calorie content, which might not make it as friendly for people trying to watch what they are eating.
Both companies also list allergens and ingredients on their website which is helpful! In addition they listed caloric breakdown and ingredients on the packaging inside the boxes.
We tried both companies as a way to find a way to make dinner quicker and easier on nights we are both tired and unwilling to cook.
Overall, I think that while the recipes were delicious and fun to try, I don’t know that they really made cooking too much easier. They saved the trip to the grocery store, but I still have to go for breakfast, lunch, and snack items. In addition, I still had to wash, cut, and prepare all of the produce when I got home from work, so I didn’t feel like they saved me a ton of time overall.
For someone who doesn’t cook (ie my husband) I think the Hello Fresh recipes were a lot more realistic for an easy home cooked option. These recipes allowed him to prepare something without having to plan or decide anything, but did not require any in-depth cooking knowledge.
While the Blue Apron meals did not disappoint in the flavor category, the higher caloric content and more complicated recipes lend me to think that I would rather find a healthier recipe online that I could just shop for and prepare myself.
If I had to pick one box to order again, I would definitely pick Hello Fresh. Blue Apron would be a fun option for an at-home date night where we try a dish with ingredients we have never used before and I am able to help with the more in-depth cooking steps. But for everyday use or thoughtless meal planning, I think Hello Fresh was the easier, more basic option.
If you would like to try either of these meal box services, I do have a limited amount of free boxes from Blue Apron, and a hefty discount from Hello Fresh to give away. Just email me, or comment below and I will send a box you way (this is their standard promotion and referral program, nothing specifically sponsored for this blog).
Have your own experiences you want to share? Suggestions for other must-try meal prep services? Be sure to drop them below and I will check them out! I have a few more I’ve got my eye on, and can’t wait to share those with you!